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Nietzsche's Revaluation Of All Values

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Nietzsche's Revaluation of All Values

In the nineteenth century, popular philosophy - particularly the Hegelian dialectic - professed that mankind was developing in an upward direction, becoming more angelic as it were. Man's moral laws were more advanced, as support for democracy and equal rights were beginning to become popular. However, Friedrich Nietzsche believed that mankind was entering a downward spiral towards complete decadence. Modern man, with its "advanced" morality, was, in truth, decaying on the inside. Claims of morality merely masked modern man's decay:

he is veiled behind moral formulas and concepts of decencyÐ'.... [not] to mask human malice and villainyÐ'.... [but] it is precisely as tame animals that we are a shameful sightÐ'.... The European disguises himself with morality because he has become a sick, sickly, crippled animal that has good reasons for being "tame". [GS 352]

Nietzsche believed this to be a form of nihilism because mankind valued precisely what was halting his advancement. With this in mind, Nietzsche began his bold movement towards the revaluation of all values.

We need a critique of moral values, the value of these values should itself, for once, be examinedÐ'.... [What if] morality itself were to blame if man, as a species, never reached his highest potential power and splendour? [GM P 6]

In this essay I will first look at several reasons for the necessity of a revaluation of all values. Then I shall look at Nietzsche's conception of the "noble" and how through egoism, they can undertake the revaluation of all values.

Nietzsche's most famous statement is, without a doubt, that "God is dead" (GS 108/125, Z P 2, etc.). Through many years of being quoted, contemporary society seems to have lost the significance of such a profound statement. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this statement is that "we have killed him - you and I. All of us are his murderers" (GS 125). It is important to remember that Nietzsche did not believe this to be a literal event. Instead, he explains "that the belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable" (GS 343). Such disbelief has begun to cast morality, indeed mankind's meaning, into doubt. Without God, how can universal moral truths be justified? Where is the meaning of man?

What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? [GS 125]

While God's death implies mankind has no external guidance, Nietzsche believed that guidance was still needed. This guidance must be internal, from man himself: "is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?" (ibid.) On an interesting side note, Nietzsche seemed to imply, however, that not all men find God unbelievable. The Saint in Zarathustra who says, "I make songs and sing them, and when I make songs, I laugh, weep, and mutter: thus I praise God" (Z Prologue 2), is spared the news of God's death because he actually believed. The vast majority of mankind, though, is not like this. They are without God and need to become gods themselves in order to restore value and meaning to their actions. This need is a first indication of the necessity to revaluate all values and create new ones.

Strangely enough, a second sign of the need for revaluation of values comes from Nietzsche's doctrine of eternal recurrence. This is best described by the demon of the Gay Science:

this life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every sign and everything unutterably small or great in you life will return to you, all in the same succession and sequence. [GS 341]

As Arthur Danto relates, this was Nietzsche's "greatest weight" (ibid.), as Nietzsche himself only spoke of it in hushed tones. Zarathustra himself was not free from its gravity and pain - exemplified by an evil dwarf and black snake - as related in "The Vision and the Riddle" and "The Convalescent." While scientific backing for such a statement is dubious at best, it is still a powerful philosophical concept: "if this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are, or perhaps crush you" (GS 341). Like god's death, this exposes the inherent meaninglessness of the world because the world goes on eternally, devoid of a meaningful conclusion. Furthermore, in saying that there is nothing new under the sun, "but everything old under the sun is going to keep coming back" (Danto 1965, p. 210), there is grave disappointment because mediocrity cannot be annihilated: "alas, man recurs eternally! The little man recurs eternally!" (Z "The Convalescent" 2) Nietzsche does not want us to despair, however, because, acceptance is

the ideal of the most high-spirited, alive, and world-affirming human being who has not only come to terms and learned to get along with what was and is, but who wants to have what was and is repeated into all eternity. [BGE 56]

As with the death of god, this provides man an opening to begin providing value and meaning to his existence by undertaking the revaluation of all values.

Nietzsche's belief that current values were decadent points to a further need for the revaluation. The values were decadent because they deprived mankind of what it needs most, affirmation of life: "I call an animal, a species, an individual depraved when it loses its instincts, when it chooses, when it prefers what it harmful to it" (AC 6). He was further infuriated since these "values of decline, nihilistic values hold sway under the holiest names" (AC 6). Nietzsche's favourite examples of decadent values were altruistic.

An Ð''altruistic' morality, a morality under which egoism languishes - is under all circumstances a bad signÐ'.... [because] to choose what is harmful to oneself, to be attracted by Ð''disinterested' motives, almost constitutes the formula for decadence. [TI "Expeditions of an Untimely Man" 35]

In demonstrating the harmful effects of altruism, he attached little value to pity because "pity, insofar as it really causes suffering Ð'... is a weakness, like every losing of oneself through a harmful affect" (D 134). Pity promotes nothing of value, instead

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